True Friends


After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself. – 1 Samuel 18:1 (NIV)

Friendship is a funny thing.  It is a relationship that can be difficult to define, but easy to recognize.  When Jonathan watches David interact with Saul, he recognizes the characteristics of what he wanted in a friend.  This doesn’t always happen this way.  Sometimes friendships take years to develop and sometimes those we once considered enemies become our closest companions.  This is the mystery of friendship.

I have been blessed to have several good friends over the years that have challenged, encouraged and changed me by their character and commitment.  My life is better for the friends I have and have had over the course of life and I want the same for my daughters.  But finding friends can be hard.  Hopefully my daughters will not need to slay a Philistine giant to find a friend who will love them as they love themselves.

There are giants they will have to overcome in order to have good and godly friendships.  They will need to overcome pride, selfishness, greed and fear.  They will have to triumph over the voices advertising the kind of friends that are cool and acceptable.  They will have to pursue victory over the temptation to change others to be just like them.  Teaching our children how to be friends is one of the greatest gifts we give to the world.  Helping them understand the blessing and benefits of friendship is one of the best gifts we can give to our children.

Lord, help me teach my children to be godly companions to their friends.  Help me show them the blessings of friendships that improve all your other relationships.  Give me the opportunities to speak into their lives and circumstances and may they be the kind of friend that makes someone else’s life better. Amen.

The Wrong Armor


Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you.”

Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head.  David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them.

“I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. 40 Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine. – I Samuel 17:37b-40

Saul was Saul and David was David, but David was the only one aware of this.  When Saul tries to have David fight Goliath, he wants David to wear his armor and use his weapons.  While David is obedient to His king, it is the armor God provides that ruled the day.  The end result is a shepherd approaching the field of battle with a shepherd’s weapon.  With a sling and a rock, David felled the giant and glorified God.

David knew two things that day that made victory possible; he knew himself and – more importantly – he knew God.  David did not need to be anything more than what God had created him to be; a shepherd protecting the flock.  God didn’t need a warrior that day, decked out in the proper garb and arsenal, He needed a trusting servant.  The question for us is, “As parents, are we preparing our children to be like David?”

It is easy to treat our children the same way that Saul treated David, trying to force them into armor that neither fits their purpose or potential.  We need to see our children the same way that God saw David – full of promise and potential.   Our eyes need to stay focused on who are children are becoming rather than all we want them to be.  God has given us the privilege of caring for his people and our children, so that they grow up to be all God intends them to be.

Lord, help me to see past my own to see the amazing potential my children have.  May they grow to know who God created them to be and may they learn to sling stones to kill the giants in their lives. Amen.

Growing in Stature


And the boy Samuel continued to grow in stature and in favor with the LORD and with men. – 1 Samuel 2:26 (NIV)

My oldest daughter is 11 years old now, and it amazing to me the immense and numerous changes that she has gone through.  She is a gracious, tender-hearted and humorous young woman and every day she gives me reasons to be proud of her.  It has been humbling to hear the good reports from teachers at school and church about her character and heart.  She is growing in stature and favor.

God asks us to do the same for Him – to grow in stature and favor and be more the person He desires us to be than we were the day before.  He wants us to grow and flourish and bear fruit.  He wants us to press on and press in to get closer to Jesus.  He desires his children be rooted in love, ready to bear fruit at His pleasure.  Watching this happen in the lives of our children is the great privilege of parenthood.

As my daughters get older, I will have to trust them more and more to make the righteous decisions they should.  It is one of joys of parenthood to watch them succeed and it is beyond measure to witness their unique personality being revealed through spiritual transformation.

Lord, thank you for the amazing people you have put in my life and allowed to call me father.  May I continually look for ways to lead them deeper into the depths of your love, grace and mercy.  Help me to give them what they need to make the righteous decision, and help them make it. Amen.

Trust


Now the camp of Midian lay below him
in the valley. During that night the LORD said to Gideon, “Get up, go down
against the camp, because I am going to give it into your hands. If you are
afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah and listen to
what they are saying. Afterward, you will be encouraged to attack the camp.” So
he and Purah his servant went down to the outposts of the camp. The Midianites,
the Amalekites and all the other eastern peoples had settled in the valley,
thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the
seashore.

Gideon arrived just as a man was
telling a friend his dream. “I had a dream,” he was saying. “A round loaf of
barley bread came tumbling into the Midianite camp. It struck the tent with
such force that the tent overturned and collapsed.”

His friend responded, “This can be
nothing other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, the Israelite. God has
given the Midianites and the whole camp into his hands.”

When Gideon heard the dream and its
interpretation, he bowed down and worshiped. He returned to the camp of Israel
and called out, “Get up! The LORD has given the Midianite camp into your
hands.” – Judges 7:8b-15

It is no great secret that the
Israelites were successful whenever they put their trust in God.  However, God is not one to allow His children
to fall into a lazy unexercised trust.
He asks us to live out an active, expanding trust.  In paring down the number of fighting men to
attack the Midianites, God is upping the trust factor, exercising Gideon’s
trust and the trust of those who were following him.

Sometimes we have to up the ante to
get our kids to understand that they can trust us. We need to fulfill a silly
request or meet some unreasonable request.
Our ability to provide safety and security will be tested and we will make
sacrifices and investments to pass the test.
On the other side of the coin, we need to instill in our children the
desire to be trusted.  While the Israelites
had to trust in God to be victorious, they needed to be trustworthy to carry
out God’s plan.

Trust is a beautiful thing.  It overcomes our fears, helps us see without
our eyes and takes us directions we would never pick left to our own devices.
Trust is the spark that lights the fire of revival, it is the seed planted in
the ground out of site with the promise of a harvest.  Trust is taking 300 men against
thousands.  It is raising children in the
way they should go and then letting them go.

I want my children to trust me and I
want them to be trustworthy in increasing measure.  Lord, help me to be trustworthy for Your
kingdom and my children. Amen.

Checking With God


The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the LORD.  Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath. – Joshua 9:14-15 (NIV)

This one is simple…a habit of checking with God first saves a lot of trouble.  Creating that habit is not as simple.  Joshua, a good man and leader, makes the mistake.  The other leaders in the Israelite camp made the mistake. I have made the mistake.  It is a common mistake.

My daughters come to me from time to time to see if what they want to do is okay.  There are, however, other times where they did not come to me first.  Results from these instances of self-governance varied in severity and scope, but there were always consequences.  Sometimes cause and effect levied a stiff punishment. Punishments were doled out depending on the seriousness of the infraction, but there was always a consequence.

Getting our children to understand the importance of submitting to a higher authority will take years and will test our patience. (I am sure most children see it as testing their patience)  They will go through their stages of pridefulness and self-reliance.  They will be exasperated with our lack of understanding and apparent ignorance of how special their circumstances are, but we must remain vigilant.  Over the years we can gently shift them from coming to us to approaching God.

Lord, nudge my children toward me today for guidance and direction.  Help me be a source of wisdom and good counsel when they seek it and help them seek it often.  Grant me excellence in preparing my children for a relationship with you. Amen.

Things Devoted to Destruction


The LORD said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face?  Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions.  That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.” – Joshua 7:10-12 (NIV)

Rooting out the things that cause us to sin is a process.  Israel had taken a long time to become the faithful followers God desired them to be, but when the geography changed, they lost faith.  In taking the devoted things they were essentially saying, “God is not enough for us.  God is not providing what we need.”  They decided to take their lives into their own hands.  This is the tension we all deal with as we grow in our relationship with God; what I want and what God wants.  As we are transformed more and more into the image of Christ, those two things start to look similar, but we need to remember that what God wants is the reference point.

As our children grow and mature, they will reach new ground – their geography will change – and their level of commitment to God’s wants is tested.  They will need us to be a Joshua for them in those new countries.  It is a short walk from faithful obedience to doubtful wandering.  When our children grow older and make friends and venture further into the world, they will be tempted with things devoted to destruction.  These things are destined to pass from existence.  They have no permanence or eternal value.  They have no power but what we imbue them with through our wants and desires.

It is left to us to teach our children to say “No” to devoted things; to reject the pull that things doomed to destruction have on us.  This does not mean that our children cannot have certain clothes or technology or money, but we need to do our best to make sure they do not have our children.  The people of Israel gave themselves over to devoted things – things devoted to destruction – and they lost the blessing of God.  If we are not there to call our children to truth, to holiness, to faithfulness, we leave them vulnerable to the pull of the world.

Whenever our children are treading into new territory, we need to be watchful for those things that might pull our children off track.  Not so much to protect them from those things, but to help our children see those things for what they are and help them make the right choices about those things.  God could have made a fire consume all of Jericho when the wall fell, but He didn’t.  He left it to the Israelites to destroy and put to death those things devoted to destruction.  We need to equip our children to face these temptations in order to help them overcome and be victorious.

Lord, help me remove the things devoted to destruction from having any influence on my life.  Teach me to be solely dependent on you.  Give me a heart that hungers for you and not the things of this world.  And help me speak these same truths into the ear and minds and hearts of my children when they face new territory.   Amen.

Getting to What God Has Already Done


Then the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.  March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.” – Joshua 6:2-5 (NIV)

God makes statements throughout Scripture where He refers to future events as already done.  Israel was 7 days out from the walls of Jericho crumbling before their marching band, but God tells them He has already delivered Jericho into their hands.  This is a fundamental reality of God; He is without beginning or end, being fully present in each moment of time.  This makes everything in history true for God, whether it has happened for us or not.  Israel had spent 40 years in the wilderness fully dependent on this same ever-present God.  This made whatever God said, however unlikely or seemingly impossible, a fact.

Parents are not ever-present or perfect, but they are called to integrity and servanthood.  We have the opportunity with our children to model this character of God by being people who follow through.  There are not many things that erode trust faster than broken promises.  If we want our children to believe in a God who has already followed through on His promises, we need to be the kind of parents whose yes means yes and no means no.  There is a caution that comes with this because we are not like God; we have limitations and boundaries.  First, we must be careful about the promises we make.

As awesome and powerful as God is, His promises are limited and specific.  This is not due to Him being limited, but because He meets us in the real world.  His promises come to us through suffering and work and discipline and sacrifice.  His promises are not magic potions that fix things; they are exhibitions of His grace and power in a broken, fallen world amongst broken, fallen people.  His promises are His kingdom come.  His promises have been true, are true and will be true, We need to help our children live in and hope for the promises of God because He is already there

We need to lead our children to where God already is.  They need to develop vision that is defined by faith hope and love.  We need to build in them and expectation that they can tear down walls.

Lord, thank you for being everywhere, all the time and all at once.   Help us to live in an attitude of expectation for your works and will to be revealed.   Bless my children with love and grace to keep them in the promises of God. Amen.

With God There are No Giants


They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land.  They gave Moses this account: “We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit.  But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there.  The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.”

Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.”

But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.”  And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size.  We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” – Numbers 13:26-33 (NIV)

It is hard to be a true believer.  It is difficult to trust what you have been told when everyone else seems to be turning a deaf ear to the truth.  No one said following God would take us through friendly territory, just that He would take us through.  Joshua and Caleb were true believers.  Apparently, they were a very small minority.

Teaching our children to stick to their faith, to follow through with their commitment to God, is critical.  We live in a culture of shifting beliefs and smorgasbord spirituality.  When we don’t like something, we go to a philosophical grab bag and pick out the ideology en vogue at the time.  This nonsensical atmosphere can seem like a land of giants, but with God there are no giants.  There is nothing, no one bigger than our God.

I want my daughters to be like Joshua and Caleb.  I want them to walk into their friendships, schools, groups and gatherings unafraid of the giants they may meet there.  My hope for them is based on the command and promise that God gave to Joshua later in his life: “Be strong and courageous … for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)  I want my daughters to be brave.

Lord, make me into a giant killer.  Help me to be brave when giants are in the land.  Give me the strength and will to overcome and the faith to believe.  Let me show my children that You are above all things. Amen.

Manna and Quail


That evening quail came and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the dew was gone, thin flakes like frost on the ground appeared on the desert floor.  When the Israelites saw it, they said to each other, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread the LORD has given you to eat.  This is what the LORD has commanded: ‘Each one is to gather as much as he needs. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.'”

The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little.  And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed.

Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.”

However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.

Each morning everyone gathered as much as he needed, and when the sun grew hot, it melted away.  On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much–two omers for each person–and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses.  He said to them, “This is what the LORD commanded: ‘Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.'”

So they saved it until morning, as Moses commanded, and it did not stink or get maggots in it.

“Eat it today,” Moses said, “because today is a Sabbath to the LORD. You will not find any of it on the ground today.  Six days you are to gather it, but on the seventh day, the Sabbath, there will not be any.”  Nevertheless, some of the people went out on the seventh day to gather it, but they found none.

Then the LORD said to Moses, “How long will you refuse to keep my commands and my instructions?  Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where he is on the seventh day; no one is to go out.”  So the people rested on the seventh day. – Exodus 16:13-30 (NIV)

Getting your children to trust you can be an epic chore sometimes.  They can be very sure of their perception of things and be very unsure of what mommy and daddy try to tell them.  The process of earning their trust is one we will go through numerous times, but it would be good for us to keep in mind that God goes through the same process with us.  The passage above is a clear indication of how stubborn humanity can be even in the face of God’s goodness and providence.

We are going to have manna and quail moments with our children.  We are going to be frustrated that they still behave as if we are not on their side, or don’t care about them or don’t want them to succeed.  They will say hurtful and uninformed things about us and our motivations.  They will act in ways that seem disconnected from the way we treat them day after day after day.  In the midst of all this, God is going through the same frustration with His children.

For God and us, this process of trust sits entirely with us.  There is nothing God needs to prove, there is nothing He needs to change and there is nothing He owes us.  However, as parents we need to empathize with our children and approach their growth and struggles with humility.  We aren’t perfect and therefore have no right to expect it from anyone else, especially our children.

Next time I am about to nitpick one of my children, I hope God brings the manna and quail to mind.  When the time comes and I am about to enter into a diatribe on respect and obedience, I pray that God will cause me to pause and re-evaluate the situation.  Lord, help me to be a voice of patience, grace and wisdom into my children’s lives. Amen.

A Child Among the Reeds


Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. – Exodus 2:1-3 (NIV)

My wife and daughter recently had an opportunity to go on a mission’s trip to Mexico with our church.  It was an established ministry with a number of trips already behind them over the last several years.  There were several adults in the group and a number of safety measures were in place.  It was very difficult to let them go without any fear or anxiety, to trust that they would be safe, but it was clear that this was the direction God was moving our family.

Trusting our children to the river and the reeds, trusting them to the care of God, is not an easy discipline.  We sometimes get being responsible for our children mixed up with having control over their lives.  When Moses was placed among the reeds, he began a journey that changed the course of history.  It was only through his mother’s willingness to let him go that kept him alive and moved him closer to fulfilling God’s purposes.  I don’t know what his mother felt like.  I can’t put myself in her shoes.  But I remember what I felt like when my wife asked if our little girl could go with her to Mexico.

Those feelings of fear, anxiety and doubt revealed a weakness in me.  It uncovered a crack in the armor; I needed to learn more about trusting God.  Instead of responding with excitement at the opportunity for my daughter to experience ministry, I reacted with trepidation.  It took some time, prayer and the patience of my wife for me to finally work it out, and I hope I will be more prepared the next time I need to let one of my children go into a situation that causes me discomfort.

God gives us responsibility over our children, but our ability to trust them to God’s care is at the heart of that responsibility.  We need to be willing to let our children be the people God created them to be, and that may take them directions we aren’t comfortable with.  As a matter of preparation, we need to turn our children over to God each day.  We need to pray that our children will be sensitive to God’s call on their lives, even if that means going places that cause us stress.

Lord, help me to trust you with my children.  Give me the courage and humility to trust you with their future, no matter where that leads them.  Release me from my false sense of control.  Amen